Sunday, June 3, 2012

Multilingual Boy

Today, Nicholas said a sentence to me:

"Papa i malchik looking at pao pao."

He managed to put three languages into one sentence! The first part, Russian (The daddy and the boy) followed by English, followed by Chinese (bubbles). I sometimes wonder whether I am confusing him by exposing him to four languages at once...

Apart from Russian, since it is his second 'native' language and is how he communicates with his father, and which he will need to speak to Russian friends and extended family who don't generally speak English, he has complete control of his other languages.

He chooses to listen to Chinese songs. He chooses Russian or Chinese books. He chooses to watch dvds in Russian, Chinese, Japanese... or even English! He is always very firm with a 'NO' if he doesn't want it.

Admittedly, we are barely dabbling in Japanese. Although it was my third language of choice, the amount of materials suitable for young children is almost non-existent (unless you, as a parent, are fluent, of course!) and so we went for the more-available Chinese. He has three different Japanese dvds which we watch occasionally and I hope we will pick it up more when he is older.

Russian is where we focus a lot of our language-learning energy. Partly, because his father is under strict command to speak only Russian with him (even if it is only an hour or two per week over Skype). Partly, it is because I actually speak Russian and can therefore encourage conversation, as well as actively teach him new words, sentence structure etc.. He is doing really well with his Russian - although he still uses mostly one-or two-word sentences, questions and demands - he is starting to initiate conversation in Russian and using new vocabulary words almost immediately. Often he will point out things in English and then use the Russian word to emphasise that he knows it.

Chinese is something we do in phases. Sometimes, he really wants me to do lots of Chinese with him. We read books, watch dvds and listen to music all day long. Then after a week, or two, or five, he'll absolutely refuse to read/watch/listen to anything Chinese. We haven't got a real structure, but I won't enforce one for a few years, yet. I am happy to let him absorb the sounds of the language, learn some words and start to speak when he is ready.

He still babbles a lot to himself when playing and singing, which I have noticed his friends don't do very much, but I realise that he is trying to learn a lot more sounds than them! When he does speak clearly in English, he uses long sentences and age-appropriate grammar so I am not worried.  Mixing languages is, apparently, normal at this age - I can only hope that his is not confused!

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